I believe in ghosts. Here’s why.


Kiara Pearce

The Ouija Board has fascinated people since its invention in the late 1800s, with roots in divination tools like tarot cards and the I Ching, which both purportedly tap into influence beyond consciousness.

By Kiara Pearce

Don’t taunt the dead.

If there’s one thing I learned from my paranormal experience, it’s that. As well as the importance of completing thorough research on whether the train tracks you take pictures on are active or not.

I’ve always been a skeptic and growing up with religious and superstitious parents — my mother especially — only added to that paranoia. In my house, opening an umbrella inside is unfathomable. Sleeping with a mirror in front of my bed is precarious; every two weeks, my mother throws a sheet over my mirror hoping I won’t notice.

These odd practices have lingered with me throughout my childhood. I didn’t believe in them, so naturally, I questioned them. These questions, though my mother never provided me with a satisfactory answer, didn’t haunt me until I entered junior year. More specifically, until Oct. 15, 2021.

We were in the midst of “spooky season,” and my three friends and I were aching to do something fitting. We spontaneously bought an Ouija Board and aimed for at least one Halloween scare. The drive was an hour long to avoid highways and by the time we reached our destination — Maryland’s haunted Game Preserve Road — the sky was black and the air was crisp.

This eerie street contains a tunnel that was once the backdrop of the Civil War and is the setting of the wartime legends that emerged in the following years. As told by the Montgomery County Sentinel in 1876, a soldier decapitated another in a skirmish before his headless body was hastily buried in an unmarked grave.

The suburban road changed as we approached the haunted tunnel. A densely packed forest gave way to winding roads and high beam lights. All other cars seemed to have abandoned this path.

We drove through the tunnel until we parked on the side of the deserted road. The Halloween playlist we were listening to abruptly cut off with the engine as we got out of the car, taking the Ouija Board with us. Standing in the dark, surrounded by thickets of looming trees, I finally understood what Rockwell felt like in his song “Somebody’s Watching Me.”

We ventured through the forest until we reached the top of the tunnel with rusty railroad tracks stretching endlessly on either side of it. If there was a sign saying the tracks were active, we didn’t see it.

It was 9 p.m. when we gathered around a large, flat rock placed too close to the railroad and lit sage incense candles around the Board. Senior Yasmine Aly, our spiritual friend, had scattered crystal jewelry around her neck and carried a handy spirit kit in her back pocket in case we needed extra rose quartz.

She knew the Ouija Board rules by heart and took them to heart as well. Aly wouldn’t be the first person to find the Ouija Board intriguing though; the simple game has fascinated people since its invention in the late 1800s, with roots in divination tools like tarot cards and the I Ching, which both purportedly tap into influence beyond consciousness. 

For more than 100 years, psychologists have sought to better understand how groups, like my friends and I, can each seemingly leave an Ouija experience with the same story: none of them were pranking each other, and the planchette moved. Some researchers hypothesize that the power of suggestion is partly in play, and that the rest involves subconscious behaviors: when a group lands on an “n,”  people’s hands are more likely to gravitate toward a vowel that commonly comes next, for example. 

Knowing that, I came into this experiment skeptical. Nevertheless, under Aly’s guidance, we lightly placed our fingers on the planchette and began the game with the phrase that seemed to connect us to the supernatural: “Are there any spirits who’d like to contact us?” I carefully watched the board as the planchette moved: “G.U.R.G.L.E.” We interpreted it as a sign to welcome our first visitor. Aly led the discussion and the rest of us eagerly fed her with questions to ask the spirit. He was highly intent on flirting with all of us.

The next series of movements spelled out three letters that appeared to form a name: “S.O.X.” Until now, I had a hard time believing that these odd names were anything short of accidental movements. However,  Aly assured me that spirits could choose whether to share their real names, or stick with nicknames and fake ones. Sox moved across the board with a newfound sense of urgency. He skipped over all our questions and instead conveyed one particular message: RUN. I started laughing — almost hysterically — at the ridiculousness of it all. Frantically,  Aly kept saying “goodbye” and hastily moved the planchette across the board to the word.

We looked to one another for reassurance as our fingers remained frozen on the planchette. After a short discussion, I loudly asked “Why?”, which prompted a worried look from Aly.

Just when I thought my question would go unanswered, the planchette moved and spelled out: HI. I had started the exchange; I was the leader of the meeting now. I imagined the heart attack my mother would suffer from if she saw me leading a supernatural discussion.

I, however, refused to succumb to such fear. I knew there had to be simple science for the planchette’s movement, but kept Aly’s rules in mind as I asked the spirit to introduce himself. His name was J.A.C.I.X.

I asked him what happened to Gurgle, to which he replied with a simple “NO.” This spirit was different. The woods seemed to fade into silence; the sound of animals rustling through the bushes and car engines from below became scarce.

 I finally asked Jacix why we should run. I looked up to find Aly staring at the board. The planchette moved to the letter “H” before darting back to “A.” I giggled as it continued to repeat these two letters, but soon the messages became unintelligible and gave way to a circular movement across the board. The planchette moved swiftly, as though it had a mind of its own.

Aly told us to immediately say goodbye, but something in the near distance had caught our attention before we could.

The deafening rumble of a speeding train blasted wind into our shrieking faces, leaving us breathless and gripping onto each other. I couldn’t hear myself scream, and I couldn’t see anything but the tall gray freight train that barrelled down the tracks, not five feet from my eyes.

It was a chaotic scene. The train’s wind had knocked over our incense candles and nearly tossed the board, but Aly held it down. She was the only one to spell out “G.O.O.D.B.Y.E.”

As soon as the train disappeared, we stuffed the Ouija Board back into the box and ran, rushing over the track with caution.

Then-junior Macie Slater began to drive back through the winding roads in silence, and then-junior Mia Barutta asked Aly why she insisted on saying goodbye to Jacix.

Jacix was a demon spirit who had wanted to harm us, according to Aly. I wondered how she knew. 

Aly explained that if the planchette had continued to circle the board, it would have accelerated, which increased the odds of a demon possession or an opportunity for a demon to enter our lives. The only way to have prevented this, she said, was to say “goodbye” in time. Only Aly did.

When I arrived home, the superstitions my mother had taught me suddenly felt less ridiculous. I tossed my sheet over the mirror and avoided looking at my reflection. I even made a wish on a stray eyelash to rid myself of the new feeling of being perpetually watched, but it was all to no avail.

A week later, a demon stood in the doorway of my bedroom. It was my first sleep paralysis episode, and it wasn’t my last.